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Changing Places: Experiences on Exchange

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Even putting aside this year’s new students, Groton has seen some new faces – and accents – around the Circle. Groton has hosted four exchange students this term: Simon Oates, Freya Coull and Scarlett Watkins from England; and Charlie Yates from Bishops College in Africa. In turn, Andrew Porter ’20 went to England for some of fall term. All of these opportunities are organized by the foreign exchange program, led by Director of Global Education Nishad Das. The foreign exchange program aims to raise global awareness of Groton students by exposing them to culturally diverse experiences. Additionally, the program gives students from other countries an opportunity to come to Groton.

Simon joined the fourth form and lived in Fernandez’ dormitory in his time at Groton. While Simon had never visited the United States before, he was excited to be surrounded by new people and a new place. Once in the U.S., his observations contradicted his preconceived understanding he gathered through TV shows and social media. He believed that everywhere he went there would be “people sitting in diners eating hamburgers.”

Additionally, Simon said that he enjoyed “playing American football and visiting Boston,” as well as making new friends in his dorm. In Gloucestershire, England, where Simon attends school for the rest of the year, students forgo football for rugby. While rugby shares many similarities to football, it is a more fluid game with less breaks of play, and players don’t wear pads or helmets. Despite having little exposure to football prior to Groton, Simon, played slot and corner for the JV football team. He enjoyed learning the rules of a sport so similar to the one he plays competitively, and said that “catching the ball in the end zone is thrilling.”

In the few short weeks that he was at Groton, Simon said he has made many close friends. He loved dorm life and forged many friendships that he hopes not to forget even as he returns to his old life across the ocean. (Throughout his stay, Simon repeatedly commented on the friendliness of Groton students.)

On the other side of the pond, Andrew was sent over to swap places with Simon and Freya at Cheltenham College for the majority of September and the beginning of October. While he stayed in contact with some of his Groton friends, Andrew found himself almost completely immersed in English culture. Although Andrew had been to England before, he was still surprised by the many similarities between Gloucestershire and a normal city in the United States. Emblematic of Americana in England was, of course, McDonald’s, where Andrew went on two occasions

As a boarding student at Cheltenham, Andrew noticed that the dorms are significantly different. In each house there, he said, forms are roughly separated by floors, but one house includes all ages of students. While third formers live in large rooms of six or more students on the bottom floor, almost all of the older students have singles.

Now back on the Circle after his experience in England, Andrew said he is happy to be back with his friends in a familiar school environment.

In a separate exchange, Charlie Yates came to Groton for a few weeks from an even more distant location, South Africa. The first major difference he noticed was the co-ed educational system, as opposed to the all-boys environment at Bishops. As he spent more time at Groton and became more involved in the community, he also noticed the two schools had very different sports. At Bishops, cheerleading is very popular and a center of the athletic culture, while it is not even present at Groton. Ice hockey and football are also absent at Charlie’s school.

The thing that was most apparent to Charlie, however, was how friendly and outgoing the Groton community was. He said that “On my first day here I was sitting alone eating breakfast [when] five people walked up to me and started talking to me.” While Charlie was overwhelmed by a new place he had never been before, he was comforted by the friendliness and inclusivity of his fellow students. Charlie said that although he had never been to the United States before, this experience has made him eager to return.

The Global Education Committee hopes that, in the future, Groton may be able to send students to countries less similar to the United States in order to provide an even broader view of education and lifestyle around the world.

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